Study: 64% of students willing to donate genetic material for science

Stock photo of DNA mapping and genetic research in a laboratoryA majority of college students is receptive to donating blood or other genetic material for scientific research, according to a new SMU study.

In what appears to be the first study to gauge college students’ willingness to donate to a genetic biobank, the researchers surveyed 250 male and female undergraduate and graduate students.

Among those surveyed, 64 percent said they were willing to donate to a biobank, said study author Olivia Adolphson, an undergraduate psychology researcher in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Students filled out a two-page survey with 18 questions designed to assess their willingness to participate in a biobank, an archive of blood and tissue samples donated by individuals for the purpose of genetic research.

“Overall I found that my sample was very willing to participate in a biobank,” said Adolphson. “The reasons cited were altruism — people want to help others — as well as to advance scientific research and to help find cures. The barriers were concerns about privacy, lack of time, lack of interest and lack of knowledge.”

Adolphson has been invited to present two posters on her study, “College Students’ Perceptions of Genetic Biobanking,” in April at the 33rd Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in New Orleans.

“This appears to be the first study to gauge college students’ willingness to donate to a genetic biobank,” said the study’s principal investigator, Georita Frierson, assistant professor and health behaviors expert in the Department of Psychology.

Of the students surveyed, 73 percent self-identified as white, while 27 percent self-identified as an ethnic minority. Before being given a description of a genetic biobank, 36 percent said they’d heard of the term. After being informed, 64 percent said they were willing to participate.

“Overall I found that the students who were more educated, the seniors, were more familiar with the concept of a biobank, and they were also more comfortable with it,” Adolphson said. “So we think education plays a role in acceptance.”

The research indicates that the medical community should do more to inform people about biobanks, Adolphson said.

“The biobank community needs to educate people. And they need to use simple language that isn’t intimidating, because lack of knowledge is a big barrier,” she said. “From this research we saw that younger people are going to be willing to participate, because they are open-minded about the concept of research.”

Adolphson’s research followed a larger study by Frierson, which surveyed 135 adult Dallas-area residents who also attended one of Frierson’s 28 focus groups on the subject of biobanks. That study found that 81 percent of the participants had never heard of biobanking. Before the educational focus groups, 64 percent said they would participate in a biobank. After focus groups, that number jumped to 90 percent, Frierson said.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Tune In: Sharing new knowledge at SMU Research Day 2012

SMU graduate students — and a limited number of undergraduates — presented results of research they have been working on at SMU at the 2012 Graduate Student Research Day. Sponsored by SMU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies, the event gives participants opportunities to network with students in different programs, to present their work in formats they will use as professionals, and to share the outstanding research being done at the University.

Revisit a few of the nearly 90 presentations in this video by Eva Parks of SMU News. Click the YouTube screen to view, or click this link to watch SMU’s 2012 Research Day video in a new window.

Students put best work forward during 2012 Research Day Feb. 10

Graduate students present their research during SMU's 2011 Research DayMore than 80 SMU graduate students (and a select number of undergraduates) from a wide variety of disciplines will present their best work today as part of the University’s 2012 Research Day. All SMU faculty, staff members and students are encouraged to visit the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballrooms from 2-4:30 p.m Friday, Feb. 10, to meet the student researchers and discuss their results.

> Learn more about this year’s projects from SMU News
> Visit SMU Graduate Studies online